‘Don’t let go of our top players – you hear it Henry?’
Last season was a landmark season for Fenway Sports Group (FSG) and its major shareholder John W. Henry. Their baseball franchise, the Boston Red Sox, won the World Series, the biggest tournament for baseball fans, while their other big franchise, our beloved Liverpool FC, finished second in the Premier League. Liverpool over-exceeded the initially set target of finishing fourth and qualified for the Champions League, after a gap of 5 years.
With the 2014/2015 season about to start in less than two months, new gossips and rumors about player transfers are emerging every day. But the ones making the headlines all over the world is the rumored interest of Barcelona and Real Madrid towards the Reds’ most lethal weapon, Luis Suarez. Also making headlines is the interest of Real Madrid towards our most promising youngster, Raheem Sterling.
So, the question presently troubling all Liverpool fans is:
“If the right offer comes, will FSG allow players to exit the club at their will?”
In their two and half years of ownership, FSG has definitely proven to be a boon for Liverpool FC. They won the League Cup in 2012 and then against all odds nearly won the Premier League, only to be outpaced by a better spending team called Manchester City, at the last moment.
The facts are clear – we are nearly the best team in England and perhaps one of the strongest team in Europe at the moment. But, we aren’t exactly the best! And if we want to be the best anytime sooner, we are supposed to add a few good players to the team. We won’t be the best team, if we sell our best players and then try to replace them with ‘nearly the best’ players!
Suarez is in superb form and the world knows that (especially since he single-handedly knocked England out of the World Cup in Brazil). Sterling definitely is one of the hottest young players at the moment (one of the only few bright spots, the world witnessed in the current England squad). Add Coutinho, Sturridge, Henderson and Gerrard to the two and our list of the top class players effectively ends.
Take one of them out of the above mentioned six in the squad and it starts struggling instantly. It will not take an ‘expert statistician’ to observe what the absence of Henderson did to the squad after he got red carded against Manchester City. In his absence, Liverpool lost against Chelsea and drew a must win game against Crystal Palace, blowing a three goal lead. In effect, it cost us the title!
We are in dire need to add a few quality players to support these top players. Although the signing of Rickie Lambert and Emre Can is encouraging, they are not exactly the quality that we require instantly to bolster the squad. Yes, we don’t have the budget that the likes of Real Madrid, Machester City or Barcelona have at their disposal. But finally we do have a good bunch of world class players that can challenge the best teams in the world and on a good day, defeat them in style!
Tottenham sold Bale for a record breaking fee last year. Then, they purchased around 5 players with the fee. Did they get any stronger or any better? Absolutely not! Reports of several Tottenham players considering transfer requests are already making headlines, after their disappointing sixth place finish in the Premier League.
On the other hand Borrusia Dortmund’s whole team, which was assembled at the cost of around $50 million not only won the Bundesliga twice, but also went all the way to the final of the UEFA Champions League in 2012/13. They are consistently finishing around the top of the Bundesliga. Not much has changed in the squad in the last few years. Yet, once they sold Gotze to Bayern Munich, they haven’t been able to become the league champions again. Turns out, that they strengthened their biggest competitors and weakened their own squad.
The above has happened with Liverpool as well. The sale of Xavi Alonso started weakening the squad immediately, following which they immediately failed to qualify for the Champions League. Then came the departure of the likes of Fernando Torres, Xavier Mascherano, Raul Meireles and even Yossi Benyayoun. While none except Alonso, have actually made much impact after their departure, it genuinely made the Liverpool side much weaker.
After 5 years though, we finally have a complete squad that is good enough to win the Premier League. Yet, let one of those classiest players get out next season and we will probably have to add one more year to the 24 years without the Premier League title. Chelsea have already started bolstering its squad by adding the likes of Diego Costa. Manchester United are planning a big resurrection under Louis Van Gaal. Manchester City isn’t planning to reduce its spending despite UEFA fines. And then, we are rumored to be planning the departure of our best players?
The Major League Baseball works quite differently from football. It’s hard to find players sticking only to a couple of teams in their career. It’s common to see the same player win championships for the 3 or 4 different teams. A lot of the World Series winning players in the Boston Red Sox have already transferred to other teams that pay them more and it will definitely be hard for them to defend their title this year. Yet, in 4-5 years, they can again buy some good players for a season and maybe win the World Series again.
But that’s not what happens in football. Once good players are removed from the team, it will be years before they are back on top. And the top teams rarely let go of their best players much easily like in American baseball. Leeds United, which used to be a force in the recent past is now a Championship team. Lille, the phenomenal French team in the recent past, which even won the French League and had the likes of Eden Hazard playing for them, are already starting to struggle.
So perhaps, the current owners and managers of Liverpool FC may need to think not just twice, but many more times, before considering the sale of top players. As a fan, I personally feel that just one more season with the current squad, plus a few quality additions will make us a team on par with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City, for years to come.
So Mr. Henry, forget all the short term monetary gains and take the risk for just one more year. A glorious new age in the history of Liverpool FC has already begun! YNWA!